General Health Thursday August 15, 2013

Should I be worried about the H7N9 bird flu virus?

With the recent news of the H7N9 (a new bird flu strain) virus being passed between humans for the first time in China, a sense of anxiety has risen in the Far East; with farms beginning to cull poultry.

While there are currently no indications that suggest the H7N9 flu virus is set to erupt in to a global pandemic, like that of the 2009-2010 swine flu epidemic, a sense of precaution should be taken if travelling to Far East and China in particular.

What is the H7N9 virus?

The H7N9 virus is a potentially deadly influenza virus that is normally spread amongst birds, hence the term, ‘bird flu’. However, the first human case was recorded in March 2013 and since then, the virus has been found in 134 people with 44 deaths to this date.

What are the symptoms of the H7N9 virus?

It has been noted that the symptoms of the H7N9 virus can include a shortness of breath, fever and severe pneumonia. If you experience such symptoms then you should seek immediate medical advice, especially when considering that, ignoring such symptoms could potentially lead to organ failure and result in death.

How can I prevent catching the H7N9 virus?

Although there is no definitive method to ensure that you do not catch the H7N9 virus, there are various precautions that can be taken to help prevent catching the H7N9 virus, whether at home or abroad. Such methods include:

  • Practising good personal hygiene - ensure that you wash your hands before, during, and after you prepare food. As well as this, ensure you wash your hands after handling animals. Moreover, It would also be a good idea to carry an alcohol based hand cleanser with you, as soap and water may not always be available.
  • Taking correct food precautions – You should aim to keep raw meat and cooked meat separate to one other and also avoid using the same chopping board and knife when preparing raw meat and cooked meat. Furthermore, when cooking or consuming food, you should ensure that the food is cooked well and is piping hot (70°C in all parts of the food with no pink areas.)

What precautions should I take against the H7N9 virus when travelling?

If you are travelling to the Far East and China in particular, then it may be wise to avoid visiting live bird markets and poultry farms. However, should you begin to experience symptoms of the H7N9 virus at anytime during your travels, the CDC (Centres of Disease Control and Prevention) recommends Tamiflu and Relenza for the treatment of the H7N9 virus.

So, if you're planning an adventure, make sure you prepare yourselves for your epic journey by taking the correct medical precautions. Don’t let the H7N9 virus ruin your trip.

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